New Paper Describes Economic and Environmental Costs of Subsidizing Fuel for Fishing - Oceana USA

New Paper Describes Economic and Environmental Costs of Subsidizing Fuel for Fishing

World Leaders Discuss Phase Out of Fuel Subsidies at COP15; WTO Negotiating Reduction of Overfishing Subsidies

Press Release Date: December 10, 2009

Location: Geneva, Switzerland


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: | tel: 954.348.1314


Oceana released a new paper Fueling Overfishing today that describes the economic and environmental costs of subsidizing fuel for the fishing sector. As world leaders meet in Copenhagen this week to address climate change and reaffirm their pledge to phase out fossil fuel subsidies, negotiators at the World Trade Organization (WTO) are resuming talks on fisheries subsidies, including those for fuel.


“Fuel subsidies are a double whammy for fish and fishermen,” said Courtney Sakai, senior campaign director at Oceana. “Fuel subsidies promote overfishing of overexploited resources, while climate change impacts the world’s most productive fishing grounds.”


On average, the global fishing fleet consumes half a ton of fuel for every ton of fish landed. Fisheries targeting high value species such as shrimp, tuna and swordfish frequently consume in excess of 2,000 liters per ton of landings. Deep sea trawling on average consumes more than 1,000 liters per ton of fish caught. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the International Energy Agency, eliminating fossil fuel subsidies by 2020 would reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in 2050 by ten percent.


Last week, the WTO hosted its Seventh Ministerial Conference where countries, including the United States, Australia, and India, referenced the fisheries subsidies negotiations as an important issue in the Doha trade round. The WTO is currently engaged in a dedicated negotiation to strengthen rules for fisheries subsidies, including the prohibition of subsidies that contribute to overcapacity and overfishing.


“The WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations are the first time that an environmental outcome has been the key objective of a trade negotiation,” said Sakai. “A successful and ambitious outcome in the WTO fisheries subsidies negotiations would show the world that the WTO can contribute to solving global environmental challenges.”


About Fisheries Subsidies:

The WTO is engaged in a dedicated negotiation on fisheries subsidies as part of the Doha trade round. Global fisheries subsidies are estimated to be at least $20 billion annually – an amount equivalent to approximately 25 percent of the value of the world fish catch. Of this, fuel subsidies are estimated to account for about $4.2 billion to $8.5 billion a year, or about eight percent of the commercial fish catch. These subsidies are driving the rampant overcapacity and overfishing that threatens the viability of an essential nutrition source and the ecosystems that cover more than two-thirds of the planet.


According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, 80 percent of the world’s fisheries are now overexploited, fully exploited, significantly depleted or recovering from overexploitation. This includes populations of high commercial value. Because many of these species are at the top of the ocean food chain, their depletion is disrupting marine ecosystems worldwide. In addition, more than a billion people worldwide depend on fish as a key source of protein and hundreds of millions, in both developed and developing countries, depend on fishing for income.


For more information about global fisheries subsidies, please click here.


To learn more about Oceana’s campaign to stop overfishing subsidies, please visit